UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Shaping Leaders, Driving Results

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Online courses offer flexibility and new classes for UNC undergraduates


Semester OnlineUNC students looking to add flexibility to their busy schedules – and maybe learn how to rule the world – are in luck.

They can sign up for “How to Rule the World” from Boston College, “Baseball in American Culture” from Emory University and “Critical Earth Issues” from Washington University in St. Louis.

And they can take those classes without leaving campus through Semester Online, a consortium of top-tier universities that includes UNC and offers for-credit, rigorous courses through a first-of-its-kind online program for undergraduate students.

With five business courses, UNC is the lead contributor to the 19 courses offered for spring 2014. UNC Kenan-Flagler is offering:

Semester Online classes are split into two parts:

  • pre-recorded, self-paced material
  • a live, mandatory online class meeting every week

This “flipped” classroom approach means that students learn the concepts from the pre-recorded, self-paced materials and then apply them in live, online classes which are capped at 20 students. These small classes allow for greater student participation, said Susan Cates, MBA@UNC executive director at UNC Kenan-Flagler. “Students internalize more when they are actively applying concepts rather than simply listening to them.”

This structure gives Jessica Christian, an organizational behavior professor, the opportunity to be more creative with her “Leading and Managing” class. For example, she pre-recorded interviews with 12 high-level managers to show to her students. During another class, she had actors perform in different management scenarios while she and her students critiqued them and gave suggestions.

Students also benefit from the flexibility — both with the courses they take and when they take them. “From a UNC student standpoint, they can take courses that might not be offered here or are not broadly available, like our business courses,” said Cates. “It would also allow them to interact with students all over the United States and abroad.”

Students can attend the live classes from wherever they are and do their coursework in the evenings or other times that work best for their busy schedules.

Feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive, said Christian. “So far students have had really strong positive reactions to the program,” she said. “I think it’s going to increase in popularity, not just at UNC, but for students all around who want to take a great course that they might not be able to fit into their schedule or have access to otherwise.”

Semester Online is accepting applications for students in good academic standing and currently enrolled at four-year, regionally accredited institutions. Students can apply at http://semesteronline.org/ before the Dec. 23 deadline. For more information for UNC students, visit http://semesteronline.web.unc.edu/.

Additional universities have joined the consortium since it was formed, including the most recent additions of Trinity College Dublin and the University of Melbourne.

UNC is the only public university in the consortium and its involvement is part of its overall commitment to innovation in teaching, said Cates. “The University is doing lots of different things in online education and exploring different ways of teaching. We’re pushing the edges of what can be done with seminar-type classes in an online environment.”

Offering courses – rather than a whole degree – is the right way to approach high-quality undergraduate level business online, Cates told the Financial Times. The residential experience is an important part of college, and offering courses online provides flexibility and creates opportunities – much like study abroad programs, co-op programs and internships do – in the context of an overall undergraduate experience.